Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Zucchini Blossoms Three Ways

One of the joys of having a backyard garden is being able to grow zucchini -- not so much for the actual vegetable, which you can buy at any supermarket or farmer's market. But for the beautiful blossoms that can be used in a plethora of ways. In Italy, it's easy to find them in markets when the season is right. Here in the U.S. though, if you haven't got a garden, you'd better quickly make friends with someone who does, or you'll be out of luck.

The fragile blossoms are best picked early in the day when the flowers are open. You'll want to pick the male blossoms (the ones on the long stems, but leave a few to help with pollination.) Flick out any unwanted visitors (bees, for instance) but I also rinse mine in the kitchen sink because a few ants are usually tagging along for the ride too.

Next, I open the blossom and carefully remove the pistil in the center. (If I've got my nomenclature wrong and there's a botanist or some other smartie-pants reading this, please feel free to correct.) I also remove the little green thing-ies sticking out near the base of the flower. (Yea, I know, I really do need that botanist.) Neither of these steps is necessary, but that's just how I roll.

 Then you're all ready to use those colorful blossoms. Truly though, they don't have much taste. They're more of a vehicle for stuffing, or for lending a pretty look to a dish.  One way that showcases them beautifully is this frittata, which also incorporates ricotta cheese and cherry tomatoes. This frittata is just ready to head to the oven, after having been started on the stovetop. The eggs will puff up and surround the flowers, while the ricotta will start to heat up and blend into the eggs. Use goat cheese if you prefer.

 Another delicious way to eat zucchini flowers is to stuff them and deep fry them. Yes, I know fried food isn't good for you, but once or twice a summer, what the hey! 

I make a batter simply by mixing flour, a bit of salt and sparkling water. Use beer for the liquid if you prefer. Some people also like to mix an egg in with the flour, but I find it's not necessary. Just dip the flower quickly in the batter. The filling won't come out if you give it a swirl.

They are so irresistible, and there are a myriad of ways to stuff them, including the traditional mozzarella cheese with a bit of anchovy - my favorite. 

The ones below were stuffed with a mixture of ricotta, mozzarella and bits of cooked zucchini. 

 If you're not up for fried food, what about pizza with zucchini blossoms? You can purchase dough already made from your local pizza shop, or buy some in the frozen food case at your supermarket. If you've never made grilled pizza, here's a post instructing you how to do it.

And while you're at it, grill some zucchini, roast some tomatoes and offer your family and friends a variety of pizzette from the grill. It doesn't get much easier than this folks, unless you're ordering takeout. But this is sooo much better. Just slice up those pizzette and pour me a beer.

Looking for still more ideas? Then try this zucchini omelet. Recipe here.

Or for something completely different, pasta with zucchini and zucchini flowers. Recipe here:

Zucchini Blossom and Ricotta Frittata

two scallions, or 1/4 cup shallots or onions

1 T. olive oil

6 eggs

1/4 cup milk

3/4 cup parmesan cheese

some dollops of ricotta cheese

zucchini blossoms, cleaned

a few cherry tomatoes

chopped chives, minced parsley

salt, pepper

1 T. olive oil, 1 pat of butter

Sauté the scallions in one tablespoon of olive oil until soft. Beat the eggs, milk and parmesan cheese together and add the chives and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Add another tablespoon of olive oil and one tablespoon of butter to the skillet (preferably a cast iron skillet.) Over low to medium heat, pour the mixture into the skillet (9 or 10 inches). Let it cook for a couple of minutes until you start to see the edges firm up (very slightly). Arrange the blossoms in the skillet and surround with dollops of ricotta cheese. Place some cut cherry tomatoes around the skillet and put it in the oven for about 15 minutes at 400 degrees fahrenheit. Remove when the eggs seem firm all around, or slightly earlier if you prefer a looser frittata.

Grilled Pizzette

Grilled zucchini pieces

roasted cherry tomatoes

zucchini blossoms

prosciutto slices

shredded mozzarella

pizza dough (purchased or homemade)

fresh tomatoes

Using purchased or homemade dough, let it rise slightly. (Honestly, it's good even if it doesn't rise much at all.) Make small rounds from the dough and place the rounds on a hot grill, one in which you've first oiled the grates. The dough will start to rise slightly. Lower the heat if it looks like it might burn. Keep a close watch and flip over when you see grill marks form on the bottom. Let the dough cook slightly on the second side (a couple of minutes) before adding toppings - first the mozzarella cheese, then other toppings, like zucchini and roasted cherry tomatoes, prosciutto, zucchini blossoms, etc. Close the lid on the grill and cook until the cheese is melted and the bottom of the pizzetta is nicely browned.

Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms

for about six blossoms:

1/2 cup ricotta

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

1 egg

salt, pepper

a bit of minced parsley and thyme

small bits of zucchini sauteed in olive oil

for the batter:

1 cup flour

1 cup water

1 t. salt

Mix the ricotta, parmesan cheese, egg, salt, pepper and small bits of cooked zucchini. Using a demitasse spoon, fill the washed and prepared blossoms carefully. Dip into the batter then into a skillet filled with hot oil. Fry for a couple of minutes on each side, until golden. Sprinkle with salt when the come out of the frying pan, to drain on paper towels.

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